Misguided Works Part 1: How Do We Know These?

Almost everyone has seen someone, or a group of people, do works in the name of God or Jesus which don't fit with the teachings of the Bible. The best way to describe these works is that they would not be consistent with a natural outpouring of faith in the form of works. Sometimes it is the aim of the work that is at odds with the Biblical teachings; other times it is not the aim but the way in which it is carried out that is inconsistent with God's teachings. 

In either case, the root of this is usually the person's 'preconceived' view of God rather than really getting to know God by reading the Bible.

This observation raises a very important question: how do we know whether our works are consistent (or inconsistent) with God's desires?

Are our works are in line with God's plans for us?
There were so many different types of 'big' things that happened in the Bible that were clearly consistent with God's desires (like Noah building an ark).  So we can't really make any broad sweeping statements like 'no this' or 'only this set of actions' etc.  For instance, we can't even say 'building arks are always in God's plan for us'.  If someone decided completely on their own to build an ark (without hearing anything from God either in prayer or otherwise), then they have made a choice on their own to do something for themselves... but in that case it is just a 'hobby' or whatever, it's not God's work.  Noah heard from God and acted through faith, so he was doing God's work.

The only way to get a feel for what is correct (and sometimes I wonder if anyone truly knows whether their works are in line with God's plan; I certainly don't), is to read the Bible.  Get a good idea of who God is, and why certain things pleased or displeased him.  Don't go in with any predetermined notions of a God who is a mere approximation for children's Sunday School classes, instead try to understand God from what is in right front of you in the teachings of the Bible.  Prayer is also crucial in getting guidance from God on your works.

Beware of false messengers
Exercise discernment if you hear from another human being that it is God's will for you to do x... or conversely, that it is God's will for you to stop such-and-such work.  If they are indeed correct, you should expect to hear this YOURSELF from God, not from them.  However, don't throw everything you hear out the window if you experience this type of situation.  If this person is explaining themselves scripturally (i.e. by pointing out Bible verses in proper context) then it is at least worth listening to what they have to say; trying to understand it to see if they could be correct; and praying about this yourself with God.  However, hearing a statement from someone like 'well, God just told me...!' should immediately tell you to employ caution when listening to them; while it is certainly possible they could be right, it should  also signal you a red flag: are they truly carrying God's message? - or do they just think they are?

Don't rely only on whether your work is or isn't consistent with 'mainstream' religious opinions.  While you might in some cases wish to take this angle into account a little bit, it really shouldn't determine whether your works are Godly or not.  For example, Noah was thought crazy by his neighbors for building an ark, right up until flood time! John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least and constantly exhorted (and insulted) those he taught! Mainstream opinion should never be the sole determinant of whether your work is Godly, because if nothing else it puts other humans in the position of judging, which is actually God's business.

Stay tuned; we'll find out next about what happens to misguided works in Part 2.

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